Here’s a carefully crafted step-by-step guide to hosting an online networking event.
Plan, prepare & execute!
As with any event, the planning process is imperative. With online networking, it is even more important to plan every step of the way. Event planners can’t simply rely on the natural ebb and flow of in-person networking, which is why it is essential to have a plan. Here’s everything you need to know about hosting an online networking event.
Find your purpose & plan accordingly.
Understanding the purpose of your online networking event will inform all of the decisions you make regarding your networking event, including who you extend the invitation to, which platform you use, the type of activities you include, etc.
Is your networking event targeted at a B2B audience? B2C audience?
Is it for industry professionals?
Are you planning on creating a networking opportunity for the employees of your organization?
Quite simply, what is the objective of your online networking event?
Choose a virtual event platform that suits your purpose.
Once you have established your event’s purpose, you can decipher which virtual event platform features are vital. In this case, it is natural to assume that attendee engagement is your focus. After all, what would a networking event be without engagement, right? Find a platform that offers interactive features. For example, InEvent offers live polling, content sharing on social media, and even gamification features that can help you incentivize engagement.
Think out of the box.
Most of us are already screen fatigued. Give your attendees an online networking experience that stands out from the crowd. One way is to choose speakers that can leverage your event.
If your networking event targets a particular industry, consider finding an industry leader or influencer to host your event or offer attendees an added benefit like an attendance package.
One organization hosted an online cheese and wine tasting and delivered a cheese and wine package to each attendee. In this case, attendees enjoyed an all-encompassing experience in the comfort of their own homes.
Event pro tip: if you are planning to send packages, carefully consider who your attendees are. If they are based in different countries, there will be additional logistics to administer.
Organize logistics beforehand
When planning an online event, many logistics need to be handled before the event. If you offer at-home packages as suggested above, you will need to determine an RSVP cut-off date well ahead of time to place orders and have packages delivered in time.
It might also be a good idea to compose a tutorial of the virtual event platform, mainly if you chose a platform with unique features.
For example, InEvent allows organizers to define the order of activities within your event and set up follow up sessions. That means that you can move attendees to the room you would like them to go to next.
It might be helpful to highlight and guide them through the specific features that you would like your attendees to use in the tutorial.
Create small groups & mix them up
According to networking experts, it’s best to limit virtual networking events to eight participants or less.
However, this does not necessarily mean that you only need to have eight attendees at your event. Platforms like InEvent offer multiple activity events, so you can have a big group of attendees split into various smaller groups through breakout sessions.
Create breakout sessions
Breakout sessions mean that your event can offer different activities at the same time. You can separate your attendees into groups ranging from customers to investors. You could provide multiple sessions with other industry leaders mediating different sessions.
In the previous example of the cheese and wine event, different industry professionals can host the activities. Although the sessions will be similar in nature, each attendee will have a completely different experience. Once the activity is over, they can then return to the main session and share their experiences.
For networking events, it is advised to choose a platform with a private chat, allowing attendees to engage one another privately, in addition to their public interaction. Attendees might want to share their contact information with a specific attendee and not necessarily with the entire group. Private chats are helpful for precisely that.
Steer the conversation
Treat your attendees as you would at an in-person event. Have a moderator greet attendees as they enter, as a butler would at the door of a venue. Make your attendees feel welcome and introduce yourself to them.
Mix up the personal and professional information to set the tone for the rest of the event and get your attendees comfortable sharing a bit about themselves.
Wrap it up
At the end of your online networking event, be sure to reaffirm the objective of your networking event. Perhaps the networking event was intended to introduce a new product or service, or maybe you wanted to be the catalyst in building new connections.
Wish your attendees well and offer to help keep them connected with one another or with any upcoming events of a similar nature.
Just because you’ve said goodbye to your attendees doesn’t mean that the job is done. Follow up with your attendees and see what they thought about the event.
Try to get as much insight and feedback as you can. This information is vital to planning your next event and also to measure how successful you were at attaining your event objectives.
Send your attendees a little thank you, along with any resources that may have been shared at the event.
It would also be a good idea to share on-demand content to your attendees or snippets to those who may have RSVP’d but could not attend on the day.
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